Certain types of bugs can be huge pests in your garden or yard, especially if you don’t take steps to manage or control them. These bugs could kill your flowers or entire garden crops, or they can reduce your leaf quality at a minimum. They love to eat leafy vegetables, including kale, collard greens, spinach, cabbage, lettuce, broccoli, turnips, celery, and cauliflower.
It’s important that you take steps to get rid of these bugs or at least minimize them. Some won’t do damage to your crops, but they can target other areas in your yard, or they may even target the house itself. We’re going to go over several different types of bugs you can encounter so you have a good idea on which ones are in your area.
1. Leaf Miners
A leaf miner is a very destructive type of bug that feeds on leaves and sucks the sap out of plants, and this can cause trails or tunnels on your plants. The adult insect will be a white or grey fly while the larva is a greenish-yellow caterpillar that has a pair of mouth hooks that are black. It likes causing damage to chard, spinach, and beet crops. You can control these insects by applying insecticide. Biological sprays and wasp predators also work as wasps eat the larvae. Finally, it’s possible to destroy infested areas or crops and get rid of weeds.
Leaf Miner by G MacRae / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
A thrip is a minute-winged insect that feeds on the flowers or leaves of plants to cause tiny spots, downward leaf curling, and lesions. They typically multiply very quickly, and they can easily kill a crop within two weeks of the infestation onset if you don’t control them. The yellow, light green, or black bugs move in very large numbers, and they can wreak havoc on your vegetable garden. There are several ways to control this type of bug, including using pesticides, garlic fire spray, or introducing natural predators like lacewing larva or mites. Intercropping and weed control can help manage these bugs too.
Thrips by Ian Jacobs / CC BY-NC 2.0
You’ll find several aphid species around that attack plants, and potato and peach aphids are the two most popular. They’re usually pear-shaped, small, and have longer mouth parts in orange, pink, green, or dark red coloring. They suck the sap out of the stems and leaves to cause leaf curling or cupping, and they can stunt the plant’s growth. They can also carry and transmit sooty mold or mosaic.
Better known as plant lice, you can control aphids by using a broad-spectrum pesticide that you can spray on your plant’s leaves and stems. However, a lot of aphids are resistant to broad-spectrum insecticides or pesticides, and this means that most sprays won’t impact the population. When you’re looking for an effective way to get rid of them, you could try organic pest sprays that target eggs and larvae. Since it has natural ingredients, it’s safe to use around animals and people. It also works on flower plants, fruits plants, hedges, ornamental plants, and shrubs. Additionally, it’s possible to introduce brown lacewings or ladybugs as natural predators.
Aphid by Ryszard / CC BY-NC 2.0
Southern and beet armyworms are the most common type that feed on vegetables. In their adult form, they turn into moths. The moths have a greyish-brown coloring and lay eggs on your plants’ flowers and leaves to damage them. However, the larvae is more destructive because it’ll bore holes through the crop crown and feed directly on the plant tissue. You can treat this pest with insecticides for foliar applications. Beneficial microbes, parasitoids, and worm predators can also help curb the population. Getting rid of crop residue and controlling the weeds also helps.
Armyworm infestation breaches the Pacific by Pacific Community (SPC) / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
These worms are much more destructive when they’re in the larval form, and they cut the leaves and stems from seedlings and soft crops. The adults will be dark moths that are very large with grey wings, and they can have three larvae types. You may see granulate, black, or variegated, but all of them feed on the plant’s roots, stems, and leaves. You can kill this type of bug with insecticide applications once the worms appear in your space. Parasitic wasps and flies, beneficial fungi and viruses, or ground beetles can also kill them. Planting later, removing debris, and controlling the weeds also helps keep them at bay.
Cutworm by Michelle Ress / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
6. Earworms and Hornworms
Earworms are greenish-brown or brownish-pink caterpillars that have microspines on their body. Hornworms are green and have a horn-like projection on their back portion. Both caterpillars feed on the leaves of your plants and bore through the stems to cause a huge amount of damage. You can control both worms with pesticides, but you have to apply them frequently because they go deep into the crown and outside the crop. You can also control them through destroying the crop residue. Also, garden worms have different behavioral characteristics that protect them from pesticide applications to the soil.
Corn Earworm by Judy Gallagher / CC BY 2.0
7. Cabbage Looper
Just like you’d get from the name, this type of bug will attack your cabbage. However, it’s a little misleading because you can also find it on other greens like cauliflower, mustard, turnip, kale, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. It’s a light green and tiny bug with silver ridges or loops, and it makes a loop when it moves around because it only has two pairs of legs. It can damage your crops in larval form or adult form, and it feeds on the leaves to leave ragged holes.
You can manage this pest using worm predators, pesticides, and beneficial bacteria and viruses. There are physical and mechanical methods you can use like crop rotation, picking the caterpillars off, and squashing the butterfly eggs. Adding lettuce after cabbage will clear them up.
Looper Caterpillar by John Tann / CC BY 2.0
8. Green Vegetable Bugs
The most common type of bug in this category is stink bugs, but squash and mealy bugs also come in. These three bugs will pierce the leaves and stems of your plants to suck the sap out, and this causes stunted growth and crop distortion. They’re grey, pale pink, or white, and you find them mostly in sheltered gardens. You can control this type of bug using natural sprays like garlic fire, or wasps can be their natural predators. Smothering oils, methylated spirits, and crushing them also work well.
Green vegetable bug.(Nezara viridula) by Bernard Spragg, NZ / CC0 1.0
Seedcorn beetles, cucumber beetles, flea beetles,and click beetles are the most common types of bugs you’ll find in this category in your garden. Cucumber beetles are oval-shaped, small and have a green or yellow abdomen and thorax. Seedcorn beetles have light-colored wing bands with dark brown coloring, and click beetles are a darker brown with a large tooth-like projection and short hairs. Flea beetles are dark, tiny, and make flea-like movements. They will attack almost every part of your crops, including the crowns and roots, and they can spread the mosaic virus and bacterial wilt. They can also cause irregular patches, notched leaves, and window panning.
You can kill all four types of bugs using a botanical insecticide, and you can apply it after you spot the beetles. You can also have success getting rid of them using weed control, crop rotation, flood irrigation, early planting, and introducing natural predators to your garden like ladybugs, spiders, and birds.
Flea Beetle Chrysomelidae by Brenda Dobbs / CC BY-NC 2.0
10. Stem Borers
Just like the name suggests, this type of bug will get into the plant’s stem and eat the stem tissue to cause your crops to wilt very quickly. The European corn borer and the squash borer are the two most popular types, and the corn borers are gray or light pink with dark, raised spots while the vine borders are cream-colored. You can use a pesticide spray to get rid of them, and you can also clear out weeds and get rid of the affected crop. Introducing lady beetles, parasitic wasps, and lacewings can also help.
Sawfly, stem borer by gailhampshire / CC BY 2.0
11. Spider Mites
Spider mites are arachnids that change from a pale green to red or orange as the weather gets colder. They will suck the chlorophyll from the plant leaves, and this causes translucent, white spots to form with a silky web that can cover the whole plant. You can control them by using natural predators like lacewings, ladybugs, spiders, and parasitic wasps. Applying an organic spray once a week can also help take care of the problem.
Tetranychus urticae female by Gilles San Martin / CC BY-SA 2.0
12. Slugs and Snails
Slugs and snails are soft-bodied creatures that eat your plant’s stems and foliage, and they can wreak havoc on tender crops and seedlings. Snails have a shell and slugs don’t, and you can control them by using traps, baits, repellants, and barriers. Planting slug and snail-resistant crops can also help, manual picking, changing your cultivation methods, and introducing predators like salamanders, chicken, and newts can also help. Applying pesticide is another route you can take if you have persistent issues.
13. Root-Knot Nematodes
This is a microscopic worm that feeds on your plant’s root system, and they will cause root-knot galls. These prevent the roots from absorbing as much nutrients and water, and the crop will eventually wither and die due to lack of nutrients and water. This is a parasitic worm that you can control using chemicals like fumigants and nematicides. Crop rotation, heating the soil, raising your pH levels, and shifting cultivation to another area of the garden are all viable solutions too.
Tomato (Solanum lycopersicon): Root-knot nematodes by Scot Nelson / CC0 1.0
Ants have slowly evolved from wasp-like ancestors, and they’re a part of the Formicidae family. Ants have been around for roughly 140 million years, and there are currently over 12,500 species. You’ll see a node-like structure, elbowed antennae, and slender waists with them. They live in enormous organized colonies and form territories that contain millions of this type of bug, including soldiers, workers, and other special groups. Some species prefer to live in natural cavities that are much smaller.
Also, most colonies have drone ants that are fertile males and Queens, or one or more fertile females. They work together to keep the colony healthy and functioning. They thrive in almost every planting zone, and they’re usually beneficial to your garden or yard.
Ants by duncan c / CC BY-NC 2.0
15. Fruit Flies
Fruit flies eat fruit, and their scientific name is Drosophila. When you have fruit around during the warmer months, it’s not uncommon to see them flying around. They can be a huge issue indoors because by the time you see one or two, you can quickly have hundreds to deal with. They’ll lay their larvae onto the fruit, and laying time is when homes get infested. You can help control them by getting fruit fly traps and setting them up around your fruit bowls, and it’s a good idea to store the fruit in the refrigerator or in a container.
Fruit Fly (Xyphosia) by Stan Lupo / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
There are over 2,500 known flea species currency, and they survive as external parasites on mammals and birds. They collect blood from the host animal to survive, and they have flat and narrow bodies while being brown in color. They feature very strong claws that they use to grip to the host’s skin, and they use their hind legs to jump. The mouthparts pierce the skin and allow them to suck blood. It’s very difficult to get rid of fleas because you have to treat the person or animal and the whole house. You can use flea bombs, but you have to vacate for a day or two.
Snow fleas by Robbie Sproule / CC BY 2.0
Gnats are tiny flying insects that are more of an annoyance than anything as they don’t bite. There is no hard and fast rule on what tiny flying insects are or aren’t gnats, so you could technically classify a fruit fly as a type of gnat. They can quickly infest an area by the hundreds of thousands, so you want to take steps to get rid of them as quickly as possible. You can make an apple cider vinegar trap to get rid of them, just remember to change it out regularly.
Dead Gnats by Morgen Bell / CC BY-NC 2.0
Bees belong to the Apoidea family, and they’re closely related to wasps and ants. They’re flying insects, and they play a very large role when it comes to pollination. The Western Honey Bee is one of the best-known species, and they make honey and beeswax. You can find them on almost any continent, and they do very well in a host of habitats. They live in colonies and are social creatures. They feed on nectar and pollen for energy, and you can plant the Bee Balm if you want to entice more to come to your yard to pollinate your flowers.
Bee by dasWebweib / CC BY-SA 2.0
Crickets are part of the Gryllidae family, and they have long antennae, rounded heads, and cylindrical bodies. The hind legs have very large thighs that they use to jump with. Currently, there are over 900 cricket species worldwide, and they do extremely well in tropical environments. Crickets are more active at night, and most species have males that are louder to help attract females.
Colourful Cricket by Sylvia Sassen / CC BY-ND 2.0
20. Bed Bugs
Bed bugs are notorious types of bugs that thrive in people’s bedrooms. This is one of the worst types of insects to have invade your home because they bite, disturb your sleep, and they’re almost impossible to get rid of once you have them. They can make your home uninhabitable if the infestation gets out of hand. They’re nocturnal, and they feed on human blood. The bite can cause a range of health issues ranging from allergic symptoms and skin rashes to psychological effects.
When a bed bug bites you, the area will form blisters, but your symptoms could take a few days to appear. You can develop a fever, be lethargic, and itch, and they can be a huge annoyance. Infestations usually occur due to lack of hygiene, and they infest high-density areas like mattresses. They can survive up to a full year without a food source, and you want to wash everything in the house, increase the heat, vacuum, and use pesticides to try and get rid of them. You may have to call in professional help too.
Bed Bug Nymphs by Medill DC / CC BY 2.0
There are roughly 2,000 species of Earwigs currently, and you can find them on all continents except for Antarctica. You see forewings, membranous wings, cerci, and a pair of forceps-esque pinchers. They like to live in small, moist crevices during the day and be active at night. They can get extremely active during the day if they start feeding on other insects or plants. This means that they can quickly damage flowers, crops, and foliage, and this makes them invasive and destructive. They go through five molts every year.
Common earwig by gbohne / CC BY-SA 2.0
Wasps share a common ancestor with the ant and the bee. They don’t form cladese like bees and ants do, but they are paraphyletic. Some wasp species are predators and some are pollinators. The most common species that you’ll see are hornets and yellowjackets, and they’re part of the Vespidae family. They group up as non-producing workers with a fertile Queen bee. A huge amount of this type of bug is solitary that breed and live separately. A solitary wasp is typically parasitoidal, and this means that they lay their eggs on other insects. The larvae will usually kill the host bug.
Wasps have been around since Jurrasic times, and you can find them in every area of the world except the north and south pole. There are currently thousands of classified wasp species, and they range from the solitary chalcid wasps to tarantula hawks and the Asian giant hornet.
Booklice is also called barklice and barkflies, and this type of bug’s scientific name is Psocoptera. They’ve been around for over 300 million years, and there are almost over 5,500 species identified and documented. They can get between 1 and 10 millimeters long, and it’s not uncommon to find them in old books. They feed on the paste that companies used to bind books. They can also survive in live trees by feeding on the algae or lichen.
Barklice, Booklice, and Parasitic Lice (Psocodea) by Edward Rooks / CC BY-SA 2.0
Cockroaches are part of the Blattodea family, and there are 4,600 identified species of this type of bug. Out of this number, there are 30 species that are associated with humans, and four species are very common pests in the house. Most species live as non-destructive pests, but cockroaches have a reputation as being dirty. They’ve been around for over 320 million years, and some species have very elaborate social structures with information transfer, kin recognition, common shelters, and social dependence.
This is a very hardy type of bug that you can repel with certain plants, and they can survive in the Arctic cold and in tropical heat zones. However, tropical cockroaches are much bigger than you’ll find living in temperate zones.
Cockroach by patrickkavanagh / CC BY 2.0
Silkworms are the larva or caterpillar of the silkmoth. They are the biggest silk producers, and this makes them one of the most important types of bugs. They feed on osage orange and on white mulberry leaves. Due to generations of selective breeding, they need humans for reproduction purposes. Wild silkworms are viable for silk production, and they’re very different from selectively bred silkworms. In China for the production of raw silk, they’ve been selectively bred for over 5,000 years. The practice then spread to Japan, south Asia, and Korea. These selectively bred types of bugs have lost their color pigments and their ability to fly.
Silkworm by Baishiya_白石崖 / CC BY-SA 2.0
Silverfish have a light grey, silvery coloring and fish-like movements. This is where they derive their name. They are a wingless insect that falls into the Zygentoma order. They have a diet of starches and sugar to survive, and this is why their scientific name is L. Saccharina. Silverfish usually get between 13 and 25 millimeters long, and they have tapered abdomens to lend to the fish-like appearance.
When silverfish are newly hatched, they develop to a blue-grey color from the original white, and they take on a metallic shine as they mature. They’re agile and avoid the light, and they can easily outrun predators.
Silverfish by k13ELLE / CC BY 2.0
27. Stink Bugs
You can find several types of stink bugs, but there is one in particular that likes to invade homes. The small brown Marmorated stink bug is the culprit while most stink bugs like to be outside. One big reason why this type of bug is a problem is because there are no natural predators in the United States. They also lay right around 500 eggs at once, so it’s easy to see how an infestation can happen. They also eat plants, so you want to work on getting rid of them as soon as you notice them to help minimize the damage.
Green Stink Bug Nymph by Esin Ustun / CC BY 2.0
Grasshoppers have been around for 250 million years, and they belong to the Caelifera suboarder. This is one of the oldest living types of bugs in the herbivorous insect category who chew their food. They can leap into the air to get away from threats due to their powerful legs, and this is a ground-dwelling bug that can have higher population densities, depending on the environmental conditions and climate. Some grasshopper species will change their color and behavior when they swarm, and this is what you call locusts. They can eat cereals, pasture, crops, and vegetables.
It’s possible for locusts to destroy huge amounts of crops over broad areas because millions come together to swarm, and the swarms can even result in famines. They’re considered to be pests in smaller numbers too. They can flash their wings when they jump into the air to startle predators, or they can employ camouflage. Some come with warning colorations on them to trick predators into thinking that they’re toxic.
Grasshopper by Peter Miller / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
These 28 types of bugs can be beneficial for your yard or garden, or they can be pests. You want to keep very vigilant with the type of bugs you have around and treat them accordingly before you end up with an infestation and damage to your vegetables, flowers, or plants.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.